The Best Meals Food Network Staffers Made in 2020
And you, too, can enjoy them at home!
While there might be a whole lot we wouldn't mind forgetting about 2020, these dishes would not make the list. More time at home meant more eating at home for Food Network staffers. And when we remember everything we cooked — for our families and just for ourselves — in the last 12 months, these are the recipes we would happily eat over and over again in 2021.
I cannot stop thinking about Rick Martinez’s Pozole Rojo class on the Food Network Kitchen app! I made the recipe with my family in the early days of quarantine and they were raving. Every step of the process was sooo worth it and it’s easily the most-memorable recipe I cooked all year!
- Gabriela Rodiles, Social Media Manager
Life has slowed down a lot these days, and while that’s brought its own challenges, the silver lining is that I have a lot more time to cook. Slow-braised meats in a Dutch oven are perfect for a chilly Saturday meal, and these uber-comforting Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs from Kardea Brown are one of my favorite weekend dishes. I can start them in the afternoon and the house smells incredible by dinnertime. Plus, you can serve them with whatever side you like. I love buttery mashed potatoes, polenta or cheesy risotto for a fancy date night in!
- T.K. Brady, Senior Editor
The best meal I made this year was the one I made just for myself this summer. Through a stroke of happy circumstance, my family was away for the night and I was finally, blissfully on my own with no count-down clock to getting dinner on the table. I worked late guilt-free, then made myself a big crunchy salad with cucumbers, romaine, chickpeas, onion and feta very much like this one. I topped it with a fried egg, grabbed a handful of Triscuits and poured myself a glass of white wine. Then I ate it on the porch with only the dog and a magazine for company. Pure bliss.
– Lygeia Grace, Culinary Editorial Director, Food Network
We didn’t go home for Thanksgiving this year, so I filled the void with an indulgent breakfast — Food Network Kitchen’s Instant Pot Gooey Cinnamon Rolls. They’re certainly one of the best things I ate all year. I actually love store-bought cinnamon rolls — the almost salty-sweet glaze that comes in the package pairs so well with the cinnamon-sugar. But these homemade rolls are even more pillowy (thanks to the addition of milk powder; don’t skip it!) and flavorful — the orange zest adds a little extra depth of flavor that doesn’t actually scream “orange” when paired with all the other ingredients. I didn’t have a pan that fit in my Instant Pot, so I ended up improvising and popping them in the oven, following the instructions from this recipe, but baking them for a shorter amount of time. They turned out perfectly!
- Lauren Piro, Digital Director, Editorial and Culinary
I’m a real stickler when it comes to healthy, weeknight dinners (you haven’t eaten until you’ve had some protein, a whole grain and at least one veggie) so my family really enjoys the occasional break from routine. Every once in a while I like to surprise them with a "snacky" midweek meal: pizza, an epic cheese and charcuterie board, pancakes — you get the idea. It should come as no surprise then, that when asked what the best meal I cooked in 2020 was, my family unanimously voted for a casual dinner: sheet pan nachos. We make our nachos with whatever we have on hand, but the process is always the same: Layer the ingredients on a sheet pan, like this recipe does, so that there are plenty of toppings in every bite. I usually health-ify mine a bit (by using multigrain tortilla chips, black beans and seasoned chicken) but nobody minds because the chips are topped with plenty of cheese, sour cream, guacamole and hot sauce. When we looked back on the entire year, this particular batch of nachos stood out because of one key ingredient: homemade, pickled red chiles. We had visited a local farm in early September to pick our own peppers and, after I let them soak in a simple brine for a couple of weeks, they ended up wonderfully tangy and spicy — just the right topping to make our nacho dinner really memorable.
- Kristie Collado, Digital Programming Manager
When I dug into this meal I made in the summer, I could not believe it came out of my own kitchen. I made the Pan-Fried Cod portion of this Food Network Magazine recipe and paired it with infallible Ina’s fresh Tartar Sauce. And yes, making it fresh from scratch makes a world of a difference compared to a store-bought jar. To give the meal a fish and chips vibe, I also got Giada’s Pan-Fried Lemon Potatoes on the stove. And to offset the fried elements, I put together Hugh Acheson’s Apple-Cabbage Slaw (divine). Together these recipes made an unbelievable seafood meal. It feels elegant yet casual, and each element’s flavors complement each other so well. It’s bright, cooling and indulgent all at once. These recipes are truly matches made in heaven, and I couldn’t believe I stumbled upon such a beautifully harmonious meal – I made it twice in one week!
-Maggie Wong, Editor
I make this all the time — probably once a week at this point (from Amanda Neal in our digital test kitchen). Why? It’s versatile (I mostly vary the greens and love it with arugula and/or radicchio), add wheatberries or farro, especially to leftovers after the crisper vegetables have marinated overnight, and I use the garlicky crumbs on all sorts of other things (ditto the dressing). I pile it on sandwiches (again, leftovers are especially good for that), use it to make a meal out of a bowl of soup or simple (uncheesy) pasta, and it is really easy to make half or a quarter or essentially whatever according to what scraps you have — who doesn’t end up with cabbage scraps? But I’ll toss in cooked beets or sweet potato — just not so much that you lose the overall crisp. I could go on and on, but it’s a staple in my house and will be through the winter.
- Miriam Garron, Senior Director, Food Network Kitchen
I turned spicy vegetarian chili into Frito pie several times this year (and no one missed the meat). Once the chili is ready the rest is easy: Open a small bag of Fritos, ladle in some hot chili and then have fun with all the toppings. I served sour cream, cilantro, scallion, pickled onions and jalapenos, and shredded Cheddar as fixings. Eat it right out of the bag!
- Leah Brickley, Senior Editor, Culinary
Full disclosure: I can't take credit for the best meal I ate this year. This was the best meal my husband made me in 2020, though. For Mother's Day this year, he and the kids treated me to an entire day of cooking and cleaning – and this salmon was epic! The fresh cilantro was irresistible, and the Dijon mustard and maple syrup paired perfectly. This 20-minute dinner tasted like it was prepared in a restaurant, when it was really baked by a novice chef; that's unbeatable, IMO.
- Meghan Hynes Cole, Associate Editor